2016-07-27 21:40
US Army cadets visit Seoul for research program
West Point cadets Daniel Whitfield, left, and Travis Moody, second from left, hold a discussion in a lab at Sogang University in Seoul, Friday, with Prof. Shin Kwan-woo, right, who chairs the Department of Chemistry and the Institute of Biological Interfaces at the university.  / Courtesy of Sogang University

By Jun Ji-hye 

Two U.S. Army cadets are currently visiting South Korea to participate in a joint research program operated by Sogang University, Harvard University and the United States Military Academy.

During the three-week program that kicked off on July 17, cadets Travis Moody and Daniel Whitfield, along with graduate researchers from Sogang University in western Seoul, have been attempting to hone a certain paper-based microfluidic device with relevant military applications under the leadership of Prof. Shin Kwan-woo, who chairs the university’s Department of Chemistry and Institute of Biological Interfaces.

The annual program first began last year as part of efforts to foster intellectual and cultural exchanges between the two nations.

Whitfield explained in an interview that the device can detect many dangerous substances from heavy metals to dangerous bacteria.

“Further, it is adaptable, cheap and portable as it works using circuits printed onto paper with conductive ink,” Whitfield said, noting that the program definitely helps enhance the friendship between Seoul and Washington.

Moody echoed Whitfield’s view, saying, “The biggest takeaway has been the development of friendships and connections that bridge the cross-cultural divide between the United States and South Korea.”

When asked about their feelings as future officers visiting Seoul when military tensions between the two Koreas have been raised due to the North’s ongoing provocations, Whitfield said, “I feel that it is our duty to support South Korea as our ally against North Korea.”

The authoritarian state fired three short-range ballistic missiles on July 19, which was the latest in a series of provocations.

But Whitfield said he did not think much about the tensions on a daily basis as he believes that the South Korean Army is world-class and easily outmatches what the North fields, and the U.S. Army stationed here provides additional support to its friends.

For his part, Moody said North Korea’s recent actions have not changed his attitude about visiting Seoul because he has full confidence in the abilities of the ROK Army backed up by the U.S. Army.

The two West Point cadets also expressed their expectation for an opportunity to visit the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) during the program.

“I think the DMZ will be very interesting to visit,” Whitfield said. “It is really a physical representation of the uneasy tension between the Korean nations. Maybe some would consider visiting dangerous, but I definitely trust in our military forces. It will be cool to see such a unique site.”

Moody also said, “I am excited to have the opportunity to tour the DMZ. There is a lot of historical significance as well as a certain ominous connotation associated with the area.”